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Friday, March 04, 2011

Zion Narrows Campsites Closed Because of Flood Damage

All 12 backcountry campsites in The Narrows in Zion Park are closed until further notice because they were almost certainly damaged by severe flooding in late December. They will remain closed until park rangers have a chance to evaluate and stabilize them.

Below we provide the text of the Zion Park news release about the closure.

Also in Zion Park, the Zion Human History Museum and the South Campground will reopen on Saturday, March 5. They have been closed for the winter. Canyon Trail Rides will offer one and three-hour guided horse trips on the Sand Bench Trail starting Saturday, March 12. Details.

Zion Narrows Campsites Closed

All of the campsites located in the Narrows of Zion National Park are closed until further notice. Park rangers believe that many of the backcountry sites were affected by this winter's floods. These campsites will remain closed until park rangers can safely enter the area, assess the damage and perform any rehabilitation work that the sites may need.

In late December 2010, heavy rains caused extensive flooding on the North Fork of the Virgin River, including the Narrows. The flow rate for the river was measured at 6,000 cubic feet per second, the highest recorded rate since the campsites were created. Twelve designated backcountry campsites were created in the Narrows in the early 1990s in an effort to concentrate visitor impacts at specific locations and create a more enjoyable trip for visitors.

The Zion Narrows is closed to hikers each spring due to high water from snow melt. In an average year, the period of high water ends around the beginning of June. The closed campsites will be evaluated as soon as water levels allow rangers to visit the area. Many of the campsites should be opened quickly, but some may have to be re-located and may remain closed for several months.

The National Park Service reminds visitors that all overnight trips in the Narrows require a backcountry permit. In an average year, reservations for overnight trips are available two to three months ahead of time through the park website at www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/backcountry-reservations-and-permits.htm. In 2011, reservations will not be available until an evaluation of the campsites is complete.

The Narrows are a spectacular gorge carved in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon, 16 miles long, up to 2000 feet deep, and at times only 20-30 feet wide. Hiking this route can be an unforgettable wilderness experience, but it should not be underestimated. At least 60% of the hike is spent wading, walking, and sometimes swimming in the North Fork of the Virgin River. There is no maintained trail; the route is the river. The current is swift, the water is cold, and the rocks underfoot are slippery. Flash flooding and hypothermia are constant dangers. Good planning, proper equipment, and sound judgment are essential for a safe and successful trip.

For more information on the Zion Narrows visit the park website at www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/zion-narrows.htm or call 435-772-0170.

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